The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits in late May rose to a five-week high, but the rate of layoffs in the U.S. economy remained near a record low. Initial jobless claims climbed by 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 282,000 in the week stretched from May 17 to May 23, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to fall to 270,000 from a slightly revised 275,000 in the prior week. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, increased by 5,000 to 271,500. A week earlier the monthly average had dropped to a 15-year low.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it’s worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it’s best not to read too much significance into any one report.
In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it’s considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape. At this point, we’ve been below 300,000 in 31 of the last 37 weeks.
Above you’ll find the chart showing weekly, initial unemployment claims going back to the beginning of 2007. (Remember, unlike the monthly jobs chart, a lower number is good news.) For context, I’ve added an arrow to show the point at which President Obama’s Recovery Act began spending money.